An excellent Neo Noir with an actual "Classic Noir" ballpark runtime of just 88 minutes. I'm impressed.
The film was written and directed by Eric Eason who phenomenally worked some genuine low budget Noir magic. Combine that with Ulrich Burtin's gritty, very grainy, style of cinematography with an interesting production design palette heavy on primary colors by Francisco de Andrade. The film evokes a curious comic book/graphic novel melange of Classic Film Noir, Sin City and Vittorio Storaro's work in Dick Tracy. The films music was by Elia Cmiral.
The tale is filled with lowlifes, losers, and those on life's lowest rungs, as a film noir should be. The cast of characters include, pimps, prostitutes, drug mules, transvestites, gangsters, crooked narcotics cops, smugglers, a soothsayer, a homeless girl, a dishwasher, and a little boy all on their own individual journeys to the end of a single night in the city of São Paulo.
The story starts a few months before in a rundown section of São Paulo at Sinatra's Cocktail "Club", a combination strip joint/whorehouse. A Russian mobster is caught with a prostitute and shot full of holes by his pissed off wife who then blows her own brains out. He leaves behind a large suitcase filled with heroin.
|Sinatra (Scott Glenn)|
|Paul (Brendan Fraser)|
|Angie (Catalina Sandino Moreno)|
|Sinatra and Samy (Gilson Adalberto Gomes)|
|Nazda (Matheus Nachtergaele)|
|The dead mule|
|the last resort|
|Wemba (Mos Def)|
Paul wants to double cross his old man with the help of his goons and take all the moola for himself. He has one man follow his father while the other stakes out Wemba's flop house. Paul is also screwing his old man's second wife. Nice guy.
An informer in the club rats to a narcotics cop who has known all along about the heroin, He knows that a deal is going down, heads to the club and braces Paul for fifty percent of the swag.
Wemba, in classic "hero" mode, makes good on the drug deal on the ship. While triumphantly on his way back to his car walking along a deserted quay with the cash in his backpack, he calls Sinatra on his cell phone. Telling Sinatra of his successful mission he suddenly gets mugged by a couple of strung out addicts who knock him in the head, take his phone and run away. Sinatra hears this and detects that something just went wrong from the abrupt break of contact with Wemba. Paul, who was standing alongside Sinatra, now assumes Wemba has skipped with the cash back to Africa. Sinatra heads to a local Soothsayer (Ruy Polanah) who, obviously, has some serious street creds with the locals, to see if he can divine the whereabouts of his cash cow Wemba.
|Soothsayer (Ruy Polanah)|
|Monique (Alice Braga)|
All of these events coming at you at lightning speed intertwine inevitably, resulting in a train wreck of a denouement.
The biggest surprise in the film is Brendan Fraser who director Eason casts (like Sergio Leone did with both Lee Van Cleef in For A Few Dollars More, and Henry Fonda in Once Upon A Time In The West) way, way against type as Paul. Seeing Fraser play and enraged degenerate jackass is a jaw dropping, eye opener, he shows quite a bit of range here from his former pathetic good natured schmos as he chews up the scenery.
Mos Def is very likeable as the honest, loyal, Wemba who plugs away at his dangerous mission for a shot at a life of monetary freedom. Scott Glenn gives us a nuanced performance. He's a cold no nonsense successful pimp on one hand but on the other a caring father and loving husband who wants to give his second son a better life. Catalina Sandino Moreno, plays the screwed up former prostitute who flip flops in affection between Paul and Sinatra. Matheus Nachtergaele as the transvestite hooker is quite convincing, as is Ruy Polanah as the extremely spaced out fortune teller.
A nice surprise, screencaps from the Alchemy/Millennium February 27, 2007 DVD, its a love it or hate it film, for true Noiristas and AficioNoirdos, 9/10.